For all their banging on about the maths curriculum, Tories are notoriously loathe to check their sums.
If border agency staff strike on a 20 per cent turnout it's an unjustifiable assault on Britain's democratic values.
If the English Defence League leverages an even smaller figure to seize control of Bedfordshire's police force, that's just honouring public opinion.
At least, that seemed to be the case when Home Secretary Theresa May was asked last week about her flagship policy - next month's police commissioner elections across England and Wales.
This time last year Ms May assured her party conference these "powerful public figures" would "for the first time make the police truly accountable to the people."
Ms May didn't leave herself much wriggle room. "Candidates will need to inspire their electorate," she said - so when asked last Wednesday to comment on projected turnouts as low as 15 per cent, the helpless squirming was enough to rival Nick Clegg himself.
Informing people about elections was apparently "always a challenge" but so long as at least a couple of people went to the polls - no problem.
"Whatever the mandate that is received by the PCC (police and crime commissioner) they will have a democratic mandate that the police authorities do not."
Of course, some places will be more democratic than others.
London - where some boroughs might latch onto the elections as a chance to confront police brutality and racial profiling - has been explicitly exempted, with Boris Johnson installed as de facto commissioner.
Meanwhile the corporate-controlled common council of the City of London will literally continue business as usual. But what for those outside the capital?
The democratic mandate is of course a generally touchy subject in British politics. Local election turnout in England and Wales earlier this year averaged just 34 per cent, while average turnout over the last 10 years has been around 35 per cent - the lowest level in the European Union.
And while the Home Secretary laments the "challenge" of informing voters her Policing Minister Nick Herbert has ruled out publicly funded mailshots to tell people who they can actually vote for - saying in August it was "not a justifiable expense."
The Electoral Reform Society's oddly specific prediction of 18.5 per cent is hardly the worst of it. A Victim Support survey in August found nearly half those polled - 47 per cent - did not even know the elections were going on.
Another 47 per cent said they had heard of the elections but did not know much about them, and in a separate question just 9 per cent of respondents said they knew of any candidates standing in their area.
So what exactly is the coalition hoping to get out of these elections, if not an informed vote?
Presumably the advantage a low turnout hands to far-right extremists is an unintended side effect. The white supremacist English Defence League's deputy leader Kevin Carroll is running in Bedfordshire, which has the smallest electorate, while elsewhere the English Democrats and UK Independence Party are fielding their own.
In fact a Cambridge/RUSI poll earlier this month found that 61 per cent of voters actively detested the notion of party backing for candidates.
But without public funding the pendulum quickly swings back towards the party apparatus of Westminster's big three.
Regardless of who actually wins the post the real impetus behind the elections seems to be innoculation and outsourcing.
Give the public a paper tiger of their choice - for a relative value of "choice" - to provide public accountability, then continue to push the same privatisation agenda as before.
It comes as little surprise that the winner in the West Midlands' first order of business will be whether or not to rubber-stamp a £1.5 billion outsourcing contract for practically all operations that do not require powers of arrest - everything from 999 operators to investigations and even detaining suspects on an officer's behalf. Other authorities could soon follow.
Without commissioners the fallout in years to come would presumably stop at Ms May's door.
But why worry about deeply unpopular decisions when you can outsource unpopularity?
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